Pros: Tom Ross-Williams gives a five star performance that demands you watch his every single move.
Cons: As much as I love the venue, this play was too intimate for it, and sitting at the sides meant parts of the performance were lost on me.
I’d been eager to return to The Bunker since my first visit on a very cold opening night last year. I found myself back again for Run, a one man show charting the coming of age of Yonni, a teen gay Jewish boy.
Run is quite simple at heart. Teen Yonni talks about himself, his family and Adam, his first real love. But for me, it is a play of paradoxes. I want to praise it but, for everything that works, there are issues that need to be addressed.
Praise first. Tom Ross-Williams gives a stunning and compelling performance as Yonni. From the moment he walks onto the bare stage he demands that you watch him. But even as you are totally spellbound by him, his words spill out endlessly, there’s a disconnect. Having been asked to sit on the side wings, clearly in an effort to create a feeling of intimacy in the half empty venue, it feels too large, with the audience too spread out. Regardless of how competent Ross-Williams’ performance is, there are moments when the audience is left watching his back, his words lost as he projects away from us. Put simply, however hard Ross-Williams tries, there is a lack of intimacy between parts of the audience and actor.
Praise also for Stephen Laughton’s writing. As with his previous play, Screens, there is a balanced mix of humour and drama. The jarring writing style is perfect for a play about a teen coming of age, learning about sexuality and love, obsessed with social media and grindr. All instant, all disposable – quick and easy to flick from one thing to the next. Yonni’s mind is awash with so much information that it flies out in all directions, sentences curtailed as he moves from one thought to another.
But again that paradox. Laughton’s writing has so much to offer and yet, I felt disengaged from it tonight. I laughed and I smiled, but whereas with Screens I cared about Laughton’s characters, with Run, I just admired Ross-Williams’ acting, not the character he was portraying. Once more I worry this was down to my seating position, making it unable to be engaged throughout.
Unfortunately this had another major downside. As I became more disengaged, I lost focus on what was happening. The speed at which things moved meant I missed important moments. By the end I felt confused, unsure what the play was about, what the ending actually meant.
I left Run in two minds. I want to say go and see it for Ross-William’s incredible performance, a young man who I do hope I’ll see again soon on stage. Similarly, Stephen Laughton’s writing has so much future potential. But tonight the play simply didn’t connect for me, the pieces didn’t add up to a whole. So maybe I should say go and see it, but don’t let them sit you on the side, demand you sit in the main section facing the stage.
Saying all that, there is no doubt that the rapturous applause at the close for Ross-Williams was well deserved wherever you sat.
Writer: Stephen Laughton
Director: Lucy Wray
Producer: In Bloom
Box Office: 0207 234 0486
Booking Link: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/run/tickets
Booking Until: 1st April 2017